With Pan Ams behind us and World Championships coming up fast, it’s time to revert to college swimming to look back at last year’s recruiting season and rank the top 12 incoming classes, this time with the men’s #9-12 classes.
Some notes (copied from our women’s rankings):
- The rankings numbers listed for some individuals are from our pre-recruiting season rankings done almost a full year ago. Had we re-ranked these swimmers today (including some previously-unknown internationals putting their hat in the ring), the rankings would undoubtedly be different.
- Like most of our rankings, these placements are subjective. Rankings are based on a number of factors, including prospect’s incoming times, team needs filled, prospect’s potential upside, class size, and potential relay impact. Greater weight is placed on known success in short course yards.
- Transfer are included, but devalued, depending on the number of remaining years. Would you rather have two years of Luke Papendick (46.8/1:41.0 backstroker), or four years of Danny Tran (48.2/1:43.4 backstroke, 1:47.2 200 IM)?
- We’ve linked to some of the athletes’ commitment announcement pages. For the full list of committed athletes, click here
Here are the 9th-through-12th-ranked Men’s NCAA Swimming & Diving classes (plus some honorable mentions), with the top 8 to follow later this week:
HONORABLE MENTIONS (NO PARTICULAR ORDER):
North Carolina Tarheels
NC State Wolfpack
12. Michigan Wolverines
Top-tier Additions: Luke Papendick (transfer from Virginia), Kyle Dudzinski (transfer from Virginia), Javi Barrena, Mokhtar Al-Yamani,
The rest: Jordan Ross, Stephen Holmquist
If we were strictly looking at four-year recruits, Michigan’s class (just four swimmers, none in our top 20 recruits) wouldn’t make the cut in these rankings. The difference maker, though, is the addition of Luke Papendick (two years of eligibility remaining) and Kyle Dudzinski (one year) from the University of Virginia. Both swimmers were a part of the group of five that were suspended in the fall of 2014 after a university hazing investigations, and have subsequently been off the grid until recently.
Papendick has reemerged this summer, and so far is looking like a big pickup, posting lifetime bests in the 100 and 200 backstrokes at Sectionals in Athens, Georgia last week. He and Dudzinski are great additions to Michigan’s young, up-and-coming backstroke group, and also complement each other very well; Papendick has a lot more range (1:41.0 to 1:43.1), while Dudzinski could see himself leading off both medley relays this season (46.0 to 46.8). Along with Aaron Whitaker, Tristan Sanders, and Jason Chen, the Wolverines now have 5 backstrokers under 47.0, and 3 under 1:41.2.
The top four-year recruit athlete coming in is Javi Barrena, a Bolles product who adds another layer to their butterfly group, including an impressing 1:45.5 200 fly (third-fastest on the roster). Barrena has good front-end speed, as well (48.2), which already puts him less than a half second from scoring at Big Ten’s. The Wolverines are pretty loaded in the 100 fly with five swimmers under 46.8, but three of those athletes are graduating after this season.
Michigan was pretty light on sprinters in this class, but they landed a potential diamond in the rough in Mokhtar Al-Yamani, who hails from St. Mary’s International School in Tokyo, Japan (fellow alums include former Wolverines Miguel Ortiz, Bruno Ortiz, and Ryutaro Kamiya). Al-Yamani hasn’t swam much short course yards in his life, but has bests of 22.7/50.1 in short course meters, which convert approximately to 20.5/45.0.
11. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Top-tier Additions: Michael Messner, James Tidd, Hunter Doerr, Bowen Becker, Brian Poon
The rest: Nick Plachinski, Calvin Greve
After finishing 1st or 2nd at Big Ten’s for nearly two straight decades through the mid-2000’s, Minnesota have seen their status among the NCAA’s top schools slowly erode over the past few years. Minnesota struggled mightily last season following the graduation of Kyler van Swol and Derek Toomey, but they’re bringing back all 20 relay legs, along with all but one swimmer who finished in the top 12 individually at Big Ten’s.
On top of that, the Golden Gophers are bringing in the Big Ten’s top recruiting class, including a trio of sprinters that will be at the heart of the rebuilding process: James Tidd, Hunter Doerr, and Bowen Becker. All three have been 20.5 or better individually, putting each into the mix for the Gopher 200 free relay. Becker and Doerr (who has also been 23.3 long course) carry a ton of pure speed, but Tidd is the most interesting prospect; he’s a 44.8 100 freestyler, as well, and has cut nearly five seconds off his lifetime best in the 100 over the past two seasons.
Strictly from an individual event perspective, Minnesota’s top recruit is Michael Messner from Santa Clara, California. Messner is a very good distance freestyler (4:23.4/9:03.4/15:13.6) with the chops to be a strong college IMer (1:48.3/3:50.2). With the graduation of Big Ten finalist and NCAA qualifier CJ Smith, Messner is now the second fastest Golden Gopher in each of his three likely individual events (500 free, 400 IM, and 1650 free), and already in position to score in all three at Big Tens.
Also boosting the IM group will be Brian Poon, a 1:47.2/3:50.6 IMer anchored by strong breaststroke (55.2/2:00.5) and butterfly (49.5) legs. On paper, that 400 IM is his strongest event from a scoring perspective, sitting just two tenths out of the top 16 at Big Ten’s.
10. Tennessee Volunteers
Top-tier Additions: Ty Powers, Kyle Decoursey, Michael Reilman, Ethan Browne, Alec Lezcano
The rest: Sam Rice, Matthew Dunphy, Hayden Burns
Matt Kredich and Tyler Fenwick have built a strong distance group (David Heron, Evan Pinion, as well as open water star Alex Meyer) in Knoxville. This class, though, largely addresses the other end of the spectrum as Tennessee looks to move up on Auburn while holding off the up-and-coming Alabama Crimson Tide at SEC’s.
Like Minnesota, Tennessee’s class begins with three high-quality sprinters: Ty Powers, Kyle DeCoursey, and Alec Lezcano. DeCoursey has the fastest lifetime bests of the three (20.1/44.3), but Powers (20.3/45.2) packs an incredible amount of pure speed (much like All-American Michigan Wolverine brother Paul). Lezcano (20.6/44.9) doesn’t have the front-end of his future teammates, but brings a little more endurance and a 6’7″ frame every college coach would love to have on their roster.
The Volunteers’ other big gets are breaststroker Ethan Browne and 200 freestyler / backstroker Michael Reilman. Browne crushed his personal bests this year to go from fringe SEC swimmer to one of the nation’s top stroke recruits:
Time drops this season (2014-15 SCY)
100 breast: 56.21 down to 54.15
200 breast: 2:02.36 down to 1:57.96
While Peter John Stevens has speed for days in the 100, the Volunteers only have one returning top 30 swimmer from SEC’s in the 200 breast. Those times put Browne at the top end of the C-final in the 100, and right in the middle of the 200 B-final, providing an instant depth upgrade for Tennessee.
Reilman comes in as the second fastest 200 freestyler on the roster in 1:35.7, allowing Kredich to slot him into the recently-graduated Tristan Slater’s spot on the 800 free relay. There’s plenty of opportunity for him to do damage individually in the event, as well; the 200 free is comparatively one of the weakest events at SEC’s, taking just a 1:35.48 to finish in the top 8 last season. Reilman’s bests in the 100 (48.2) and 200 backstrokes (1:45.5) also currently land him in scoring position in the C-final.
Matthew Dunphy isn’t one of our “top tier additions” from a time perspective. Strictly in terms of value and potential, though, Dunphy is one of the biggest names in this group. A lifelong football player, Dunphy was just recently introduced to sport, and the results have shown; Dunphy has dropped 6.5 and 16.5 seconds in his 100 and 200 breaststrokes the past two seasons to get to 55.7 and 2:03.0, highly respectable times for someone who has been swimming their whole life.
9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Top-tier Additions: #12 Tabahn Afrik, Ben Gorski, Matt Grauslys, Daniel Speers
The rest: Zachary Stump, Steven Shek, Connor Brown, Jack Russell, David Stewart, Maciej Olszewski
Matt Tallman, just entering his second year as Notre Dame head coach, has made his presence felt. The move from the Big East to the highly-competitive ACC has made it much more difficult for the Fighting Irish to win conference team titles, but it (along with a new staff) has definitely given recruiting an immediate boost. Notre Dame’s ranking took a hit with the decommitment of stud sprinter Tate Jackson, but the Fighting Irish are still bringing in eight very talented swimmers that may make up their best class ever, led by our #12 recruit, Tabahn Afrik.
With bests of 20.2/43.7/1:37.0, Afrik is probably the third-best freestyler in the class behind only Townley Haas and Cole Cogswell, and undoubtedly one of the fastest/most-decorated recruits in program history; before setting foot in South Bend, Afrik’s bests put him 6th in program history in the 50, 4th in the 100, and T-5th in the 200. He’s currently set to score in two events, but his biggest role will be on sprint freestyle relays, where Notre Dame finished way back in the pack.
Afrik will likely be joined on those by British import Daniel Speers, winner of the 50 free at last summer’s British Youth Championships. With LCM bests of 23.0/51.4 (approximately 20.0/44.8 in SCY), Speers fits in nicely next to Afrik on relays, and gives the Irish one of the better 1-3’s in the conference (along with sophomore Justin Plaschka).
Heading into last year’s recruiting season, Notre Dame’s most overwhelming needs were breaststroke and butterfly, and they addressed both in a big way by picking up Ben Gorski and Matt Grauslys. Gorski had a breakout senior campaign, including a 54.5 and a 2:02.4 this spring, and he’ll be expected to play a key role right away; Notre Dame’s top three breaststrokers were all seniors last season, leaving the Irish without a single returning ACC scorer in either distance. Grauslys is in a similar spot; he’s coming in as the top 200 butterflyer on the roster (1:45.1, just out of an A-final spot at ACC’s), with enough speed (48.2) to do some damage in the 100, as well. Plaschka is currently the #1 flyer on the roster, but depending on how things play out, Plaschka could be shifted to the freestyle leg, leaving Grauslys as the top fly option for the Irish.
Check back later this week for #5-8 and #1-4